Abortion Access, IVF in Danger? Unborn Child Bill Faces Strong Opposition

Abortion Access, IVF in Danger? Unborn Child Bill Faces Strong Opposition

A bill expanding Florida's Wrongful Death Act defines an unborn child as a person with rights, worrying abortion rights activists

Liv Caputo
Liv Caputo
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February 21, 2024

TALLAHASSEE, FL—A bill allowing parents to collect damages for the death of their unborn child would grant rights to a fetus at all development stages, raising concerns about abortion and in vitro fertilization.

Republican Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, who carried last year's six-week abortion ban, is sponsoring HB 651, which would expand Florida's Wrongful Death Act to unborn children. This would allow civil damages to parents whose child was purposefully or negligently killed in the womb.

Though Rep. Persons-Mulicka insists her bill is solely designed to protect against wrongful deaths, abortion advocates say it will be weaponized against women and abortion practitioners.

"You know I'm not afraid to shy away from a discussion on abortion, or the value of life, or the overarching theme of personhood, or taking a hard look at protections for IVF and embryos," Persons-Mulicka said in Wednesday's House Judiciary Committee. "But none of that is what this bill is about...this bill is about the value that the life of a child has to his or her parents,"

"The term unborn child means a member of the species homo sapiens at any stage of development who is carried in the womb," she added.

Persons-Mulicka explained that her bill would not apply to women who get legal abortions, which under current law is within 15 weeks from conception. However, she has not explicitly added this provision to her bill, causing Democrats to accuse her of advancing a pro-life agenda amidst current Democratic efforts to enshrine abortion access in the Florida Constitution.

"This bill does not have any protections for medical practitioners...there is an intended consequence of this bill," Democratic Rep. Bracy Davis said. "This bill is a backdoor to further reduce women's access to reproductive healthcare. This is a barrier, and this is an access issue,"

Florida Voice for the Unborn, a far-right activist group, called for the definition of an unborn child to be expanded to frozen embryos created via in vitro fertilization, or IVF. Republican Lawmaker Rep. Thad Altman disagreed, stating that the definition "could have the effect of preventing a lot of people from seeking out IVF,"

Democratic Rep. Dotie Joseph agreed with her Republican colleague, arguing that the bill's broad language could apply to IVF treatments, effectively preventing women from seeking out that method of conceiving a child. "You are creating a chilling effect for people proactively trying to have a baby," She said.

The Florida Supreme Court is set to decide on the "Amendment to Limit Government Interference with Abortion”, which would protect Floridians' right to an abortion, by April 1.

The Court still must decide on the state's 15-week abortion ban, passed in 2022. If it is ruled constitutional, Rep. Persons-Mulicka's six-week ban will automatically go into effect.

In a vote down party lines, HB 651 passed its final committee, and will now head to the House Floor. Only the Senate Rules Committee stands in the way of the Senate version of the bill.

 

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Liv Caputo

Liv Caputo

Livia Caputo is a senior at Florida State University, working on a major in Criminology, and a triple minor in Psychology, Communications, and German. She has been working on a journalism career for the past year, and hopes to become a successful reporter after graduation. Her work has been cited in Fox News, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail

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